The Highest Paying Master's Degrees

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Earning a master's degree can lead to higher salaries and increased responsibilities. With a master's degree, nurses can become nurse practitioners or business professionals can move into management roles. The highest-paying master's degrees include business, healthcare, economics, and tech fields, all of which can lead to six-figure salaries.

Before enrolling in a graduate program, prospective students should consider which master's degrees lead to the highest-paying careers. Understanding the earning potential for each career path can help prospective students identify the right program for their experience and career goals. By researching this list, students can also find the highest-paying careers that do not require a doctorate.

Graduate programs in several fields lead to high-paying careers. These career paths also offer the possibility for salary advancement with professional experience. Our list of the best-paying master's degrees explores the recommended degree, occupational characteristics, and salary potential for each career, providing valuable information for people considering a master's.

The list below ranks the following profiles by their 2017 median annual salary, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; it includes a description of the career, example job titles in the career field, recommended degrees for pursuing the career, and common personal characteristics of professionals in the field.

For a more complete look at potential careers, check out our Create A Career Guide.

Highest Paying Master's Degree Careers

1.Chief Executive

The highest-paying career in this list, chief executives are the highest-level managers of organizations. They create strategies and policies to reach their organization's goals while planning and directing operational activities. Chief executives often appoint managers and department heads to carry out their plans. The position requires strong management training, often at the graduate level, which makes this career one of the highest-paying careers with a master's degree.

Recommended Degree: Chief executives typically hold a master's degree in business administration. Some may hold a master's in their field, such as public administration or law.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong decision-making and leadership skills. Chief executives also need management abilities to direct their organization, along with communication skills.

Median Annual Salary: $183,270

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2.Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia and care for patients before, during, and after surgery or other procedures requiring anesthesia. They monitor a patient's vital signs during the medical procedure and adjust the anesthesia if necessary. As advanced practice registered nurses, nurse anesthetists work with physicians to provide exceptional patient care. Advanced practice nursing jobs account for many of the highest-paying master's degrees.

Recommended Degree: Nurse anesthetists must hold a specialized master's degree in their field. During a master's program, nursing students gain clinical experience as part of their advanced practice nurse education.

Occupation Characteristics: The role requires strong critical-thinking skills and a detail-oriented personality. Nurse anesthetists also boast strong leadership and interpersonal skills.

Median Annual Salary: $165,120

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3.Political Scientist

Political scientists research and analyze governments, political systems, and policies. They work for government agencies, private organizations, and higher education institutions. Within political science, they may study policy, political trends, foreign policy, or public opinion. Political scientists conduct research and may publish their findings in journals or media outlets.

Recommended Degree: Political scientists typically hold a master's degree in political science, a master of public administration, a master of public policy, or a master of public affairs degree. Some positions require a doctorate.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong analytical and critical-thinking skills, as political scientists interpret data and draw conclusions from their findings. Political scientists must also possess strong communication skills.

Median Annual Salary: $115,110

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4.Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists innovate new approaches to computing, including inventing solutions for complex problems or designing new programs. They create theories and models to address computing issues, invent new computing languages, and improve current software systems to make them more efficient and effective. Computer and information research scientists may also publish their findings.

Recommended Degree: Computer and information research scientists typically hold a master's degree in computer science, computer engineering, information systems, or a related field.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong analytical and organizational skills suited for a detail-oriented personality. Computer and information research scientists often possess strong logical thinking and math skills.

Median Annual Salary: $114,520

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5.Physician Assistant

Physician assistants practice medicine, often working with physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare workers. They examine patients, take medical histories, diagnose injuries or illnesses, and create treatment plans for patients. Physician assistants can also prescribe medicine, monitor a patient's progress, and educate patients on medical issues.

Recommended Degree: Physician assistants need a specialized master's degree from a physician assistant graduate program. After earning the degree, physician assistants must complete the licensure process for their state.

Occupation Characteristics: As a medical position, physician assistants must be detail oriented, strong communicators, and possess excellent problem-solving skills. Compassion and emotional stability also benefit physician assistants.

Median Annual Salary: $104,860

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6.Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners serve as primary and specialty care providers. With a background in nursing, nurse practitioners provide advanced care to patients within their specialty area. Nurse practitioners examine patients to diagnose their injuries or illnesses and create treatment plans. They can also prescribe medication, perform diagnostic tests, and conduct research.

Recommended Degree: Nurse practitioners hold a master's degree in their specialty, such as family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Occupation Characteristics: As advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners must be detail oriented with strong critical-thinking and leadership skills. Nurse practitioners also need communication and interpersonal skills.

Median Annual Salary: $103,880

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7.Mathematician

Mathematicians analyze data, applying mathematical techniques to solve problems in business, engineering, and healthcare. They develop mathematical rules and theories, apply theories and techniques to solve practical problems, and create models to analyze data. Mathematicians may work in private industry, government, or academia. They may also work in research and development, designing experiments to test products.

Recommended Degree: Mathematicians often hold a master's degree in mathematics, applied mathematics, or statistics. Most private industry positions require a graduate degree.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong statistical and numerical skills. Mathematicians often use analytical and problem-solving skills to analyze data or solve problems.

Median Annual Salary: $103,010

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8.Economist

Economists analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues to understand the economy. They study economic production and distribution by conducting surveys, interpreting market trends, and collecting data. Many economists advise organizations on economic topics, propose solutions or policies to address economic problems, and write articles.

Recommended Degree: Economists typically hold a master's degree or higher. Some fields, like business and research, may require a master's degree and work experience.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires exceptional analytical skills to review data, identify patterns, and draw conclusions. Economists also need critical-thinking and logic skills, and many roles require writing and speaking skills.

Median Annual Salary: $102,490

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9.Nurse Midwife

Nurse midwives provide women healthcare through family planning, prenatal care, and labor and delivery care. They deliver babies and provide postpartum care for mothers, including managing emergency situations during labor. Nurse midwives also educate patients on nutrition, disease prevention, and prenatal healthcare -- emphasizing wellness care for women and newborns.

Recommended Degree: Nurse midwives hold a specialized graduate degree in nurse midwifery. Their education incorporates clinical experience along with medical training.

Occupation Characteristics: Like other advanced practice nurses, nurse midwives need strong critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. The position also requires communication skills to interact with patients, their families, and other medical professionals.

Median Annual Salary: $100,590

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10.Psychologist, All Other

Psychologists study people's cognitive, emotional, and social behavior through observing and interpreting their patients. Industrial-organizational psychologists, who need a master's degree, use psychological principles to solve problems in the workplace. They may study workplace productivity, working styles, and employee moral to improve the quality of the workplace.

Recommended Degree: Psychologists with a master's degree work as school psychologists and in industrial organizational positions. Most clinical, counseling, and research positions require a doctoral degree.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong analytical and communication skills to work with patients. Psychologists also need strong observational skills and the ability to solve problems.

Median Annual Salary: $97,740

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11.Educational Administrator, Elementary and Secondary School

Educational administrators manage school operations at elementary, middle, and high schools. As principals, administrators oversee daily school activities, manage teachers and staff members, and set goals for the school. They may also implement curriculum standards, establish class schedules, and manage the school's budget. Principals also coordinate with superintendents to maintain district standards.

Recommended Degree: Educational administrators typically hold a master's in education leadership or education administration. In addition, principals often boast teaching experience.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong decision-making and leadership skills, particularly for principals. Educational administrators also need problem-solving abilities and excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

Median Annual Salary: $94,390

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12.Educational Administrator, Postsecondary

Postsecondary educational administrators work at colleges and universities, overseeing student services, admission, and academics. They may work in the registrar's office, student affairs, admissions, or another department. Administrators analyze data to improve student learning outcomes, schedule programs and services, and prepare course schedules. At some institutions, administrators with a master's degree may oversee academic departments.

Recommended Degree: Postsecondary educational administrators often need a master's degree in higher education administration or educational administration. They may also hold a graduate degree in their discipline.

Occupation Characteristics: The role requires strong problem-solving skills, as administrators must respond to problems. They also need interpersonal and organizational skills.

Median Annual Salary: $92,360

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13.Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Industrial-organizational psychologists use psychology to improve the workplace. They apply psychological principles and research methods to address workplace problems and improve the quality of worklife for employees. Industrial-organizational psychologists may address workplace productivity, working styles, or employee morale. They may also play a role in training or screening employees.

Recommended Degree: Industrial-organizational psychologists typically hold a master's degree in psychology. During their graduate program, they take courses in psychology, statistics, and research design.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Industrial-organizational psychologists must possess interpersonal and communication skills to improve the workplace.

Median Annual Salary: $87,100

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14.Statistician

Statisticians use mathematical and statistical modeling to solve problems by collecting data through designing surveys or experiments. Statisticians must apply sampling methods to identify their survey group and analyze the results of their surveys. They look for trends within the data, test the data's validity, and draw conclusions from the data.

Recommended Degree: Statisticians typically hold a master's degree in mathematics, economics, computer science, or a related quantitative field. Graduate programs include coursework in statistical theory, experimental design, and survey methodology.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong analytical skills to design models and analyze data. Statisticians also need strong mathematics and problem-solving skills.

Median Annual Salary: $84,060

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15.Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities. They also apply therapies to help patients with their everyday activities. Occupational therapists review medical histories, observe a patient's condition and abilities, and develop a treatment plan. They teach patients how to build skills, identify improvements in a patient's home or workplace, and educate their patients' families and employers on accommodating the patient's health needs.

Recommended Degree: Occupational therapists typically hold a master's degree in occupational therapy. The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education accredits graduate programs.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong interpersonal and communication skills to interact with patients and treat their conditions. Occupational therapists also must be adaptable and possess strong problem-solving skills.

Median Annual Salary: $83,200

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16.Sociologist

Sociologists study society and social behavior. They examine groups, cultures, and organizations to understand society. Sociologists develop and test theories about social issues and then conduct research through surveys, interviews, and observations. They also analyze the results of their research to draw conclusions. Many sociologists write articles or give presentations based on their findings.

Recommended Degree: Sociologists typically hold a master's degree in sociology with either a traditional focus or an applied, clinical, or professional focus. The graduate curriculum includes research methods and statistics.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong analytical skills so that sociologists can examine data to test theories. Sociologists also need critical-thinking and communication skills.

Median Annual Salary: $79,650

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17.Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors assess risks for inherited conditions, including genetic disorders and birth defects. They interview patients, evaluate genetic information, and analyze genetic testing to advise patients. Genetic counselors often create consultation reports to explain complex genetic information to patients or physicians.

Recommended Degree: Genetic counselors hold a master's degree in genetic counseling or genetics. Graduate-level coursework covers public health, epidemiology, and developmental biology. Most programs include clinical rotations to gain experience.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong decision-making and critical-thinking skills. Genetic counselors must analyze findings and advise families, so communication skills and compassion benefit those in the role.

Median Annual Salary: $77,480

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18.Speech-Language Pathologist

Also known as speech therapists, speech-language pathologists assess, diagnose, and treat communication and swallowing disorders, working with both children and adults. To treat patients, speech-language pathologists conduct an evaluation, identify treatment options, and design treatment plans to address patient needs. They also advise patients and their families on coping with communication disorders.

Recommended Degree: Speech-language pathologists typically hold a master's degree in speech-language pathology. Graduate coursework covers speech and language development, speech disorders, swallowing disorders, and supervised clinical experience.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires analytical and critical-thinking abilities. Speech-language pathologists also benefit from listening and communication skills.

Median Annual Salary: $76,610

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19.Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners create land use plans and programs for communities. Their plans help accommodate population growth, revitalize facilities, and improve communities. Urban and regional planners meet with public officials and the community, analyze data on environmental impacts, and review site plans. They often make recommendations on proposals.

Recommended Degree: Urban and regional planners typically hold a master's degree from an urban or regional planning program. The Planning Accreditation Board accredits master's degrees in planning.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong analytical and communication skills, which planners use to evaluate data and communicate their findings. Urban and regional planners often possess strong decision-making skills.

Median Annual Salary: $71,490

20.Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists work as public health professionals, investigating the patterns and causes of diseases. They educate the public and work with government agencies to reduce the risk of communicable diseases. Epidemiologists collect and analyze data, communicate their findings to health practitioners and policymakers, and manage public health programs.

Recommended Degree: Epidemiologists typically hold a master's degree in public health with an emphasis in epidemiology. They may also hold a master's in a related field, like microbiology, biology, or a medical field.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong critical-thinking skills and a detail-oriented personality. Epidemiologists must possess strong communication and teaching skills to educate the public about health risks.

Median Annual Salary: $69,660

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21.Orthotist and Prosthetist

Orthotists and prosthetists create medical support devices for patients. They make artificial limbs, braces, and other medical devices. When meeting with patients, orthotists and prosthetists determine their needs, take measurements or impressions, and custom design a device. They then fit patients with the device and make any necessary adjustments.

Recommended Degree: Orthotists and prosthetists typically hold a bachelor's degree in orthotics or prosthetics. Most two-year programs incorporate courses in spinal orthotics, plastics, and upper- and lower-extremity orthotics and prosthetics.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires a detail-oriented person with strong problem-solving and communication skills. Orthotists and prosthetists also need to know how to work with their hands.

Median Annual Salary: $66,240

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22.Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators oversee a school's curriculum and teaching standards. They create instructional plans, coordinate the implementation of a curriculum, and assess student learning outcomes. Instructional coordinators analyze student test data to identify problems in the curriculum. They also work with teachers and principals to improve student learning.

Recommended Degree: Instructional coordinators typically hold a master's degree in teaching, education, or curriculum and instruction. They may also hold a specialized degree in their field.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong decision-making and analytical skills to evaluate teaching strategies and design plans to improve the curriculum. Instructional coordinators also need strong communication and leadership skills.

Median Annual Salary: $63,750

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23.Anthropologist and Archeologist

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin and development of humans. Many also examine human behavior through the cultures, languages, and physical remains of past and present societies. Anthropologists and archeologists conduct research through observations, field research, and laboratory study. They analyze data to identify patterns and draw conclusions from their research.

Recommended Degree: Anthropologists and archeologists typically hold a master's degree in anthropology or archeology. During their graduate program, students complete field or laboratory research.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong analytical and critical-thinking skills, as anthropologists and archeologists conduct research and draw conclusions from their work. They also need strong communication skills.

Median Annual Salary: $62,280

24.Historian

Historians conduct research into the past. They collect historical data from archives, books, and artifacts to analyze and interpret historical information. Historians draw conclusions about the past from their research and present their findings to the public. Some historians preserve materials and artifacts in museums and historic sites.

Recommended Degree: Historians typically hold a master's degree in history. They may also hold a master's in museum studies, public history, historical preservation, or archival management.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong research and analytical skills, as historians examine documents and resources to reach conclusions. Historians must also possess strong problem-solving and communication skills.

Median Annual Salary: $59,120

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25.Librarian

Librarians preserve materials and help people find information or conduct research. They work in public libraries, for private organizations, and in academic libraries. Librarians maintain collections and organize library materials. They also help patrons locate materials and answer questions. Many librarians plan programs, choose materials to add to the library's collection, and train library staff.

Recommended Degree: Librarians typically hold a bachelor's degree in library science. Their graduate coursework covers organizing information, research methods, and reference systems.

Occupation Characteristics: The position requires strong problem-solving and research skills, as librarians help patrons identify research materials and answer questions. Librarians also need strong communication and interpersonal skills.

Median Annual Salary: $58,520

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